Roberts said on Saturday that fellow players had immediately replied to Smith’s post, urging her to take it down. That did not happen for about 90 minutes.
“I must say, when I first heard of the incident, the question I first asked myself was: ‘Given the lack of intent here, I wonder how far we could reduce the standard sanction?'” he said.
“We absolutely empathise with Emily. I am really conscious, too, that the longer this is discussed in the public domain, the person that it doesn’t help is Emily.”
Roberts said the public had a right to its opinion but he did not “want this continually played out and affect her wellbeing”.
“A lot of people commenting on this don’t have full the context or information. The education is very strong in this space. Within minutes of that post being made, other female players were responding to it, saying: ‘You can’t post that, people could bet on what you have put up’. That’s what another player posted,” he said on SEN.
The ACA and its lawyers were unable to appeal the verdict because Smith, struggling emotionally, did not want to do so. Whether they would have been successful is up for debate but Roberts said judging by the ACA’s response that appeared unlikely, a claim which could raise eyebrows among the union.
“Emily and the ACA, if they felt that the proposed sanction from Cricket Australia was heavy handed there was the opportunity to take it to an independent tribunal,” he said.
“If there was genuine belief on the part of the ACA that a reduced sanction would come about from a tribunal, then I am sure they would have asked for transcripts of the interviews, witness statements and all the things you would naturally want to get a hold of if you were the ACA representing Emily.
“As much as there’s been public commentary saying they think it’s heavy handed, they probably would have gone to an independent tribunal if they thought there was a good chance of the sanction being reduced by that mechanism.”
Sources close to the case maintain Smith could have appealed her case before a cricket ethics commissioner – had one been in place.
The introduction of this role was the No.1 recommendation of last year’s Longstaff report, but little progress has been made during discussions among the new Australian Cricket Council, a body featuring state chairmen, CA chairman Earl Eddings and Australian Cricketers Association counterpart Greg Dyer.
Simon Longstaff, of the Ethics Centre, was due to appear before the commission at its most recent meeting to discuss how the role would look but that has been postponed until its next meeting, in March.
The spat comes amid criticism of the governing body’s gambling sponsorship with online giant bet365. In an era where all sporting organisations and almost all major media outlets have contractual deals with gambling agencies, CA has been accused of having a conflict, for while it has a strict anti-corruption policy, it also is happy to accept money from betting agencies.
Roberts said CA was “very conservative” in the sports betting sphere and revealed he had knocked back an offer for the Big Bash League to have an official betting partner.
Jon Pierik is cricket writer for The Age. He also covers AFL and has won awards for his cricket and basketball writing.